Dancing with Oil Rigs

oil rigs

Heading south from Brunei, a beam swell gives our gimbaled stove a gentle sway and does half the work of scrambling eggs for me.  We have a rare treat to go with them this morning: breakfast sausage! I learned to make our own when breakfast links turned out to be an uncommon cold case item in our cruising grounds outside the US. Thanks to the ground pork in Brunei’s discreet non-halal grocery outlet, it’s on the menu again.

Totem is pointed southwest along the coast of Borneo, as we work towards Kuching to meet visitors from home. A large orange boat has shadowed Totem since we left our anchorage near sunrise. It looks like another one of the bright orange commercial vessels that run to and from the oil rigs that litter the coast, which makes the behavior odd. There’s no reason this triple screw beast needs to go at our slow pace! We contemplate hailing them and asking if they have ice to spare.

oil rigs

There are dozens of rigs off the coast here.  We’ve only experienced them in any volume once before- off the coast of California, near Santa Barbara- but the density here is shocking, and dwarfs the volume in California.

charted oil rigs

The effect is a something like Waterworld meets Mos Eisley (wretched hives of scum and villainy?). The rigs are generally well lit. The trouble is that many of them have large metal moorings which aren’t. The moorings are just far away enough from the rigs- and the rigs themselves are just tightly spaced enough- that it doesn’t feel safe to pass through some areas at night.

So we don’t.

Instead, we end up spending our first night after checking out of Brunei at a crazy little spot that’s, well, still in Brunei. This funny little bay encapsulates so much of what appears messed up about the country. It extends over a mile from the coastline, and nearly a mile across- flat water with a single artificial island, hemmed by an impeccably engineered and executed breakwall. There is absolutely nothing there.

It’s probably the nicest breakwall we’ve seen since leaving the US in 2008. There’s no development other than an artificial island, so what’s it doing here? The rumor is that a member of the royal family wanted a place for his family to waterski, and so he built one. This is entirely plausible, in context with their other nonsensical expenditures. It’s not clear if we’re welcome or not, so we keep our time there limited, and sail south past fishing boats in the morning.

Navigating along this coast has tricky moments. Aside from the rigs, fishing nets drift remotely from vessels, and are often marked with little more than dirty buoys and plastic bottles- both easily mistaken for floating garbage.  With luck, we’ll be tucked into Miri before light fades.

friendly Brunei military
Officials at the bow of a military ship wave as we exit Brunei 

3 Responses

    1. Thanks Arlo. I loved the contrast of the big industrial and, frankly, sorta evil looking military vessel- with these superfriendly guys waving from the bow! Pity I didn’t have a wide angle ready!

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